Watching a progressive water platform for the San Joaquin Valley take shape.

I am seeing more local newspaper  op-eds opposing the San Joaquin Valley water dogma than I ever have before.  Part of it is about replacing Nunes, but it also opens the door for new ways of thinking about water If this is the work of the local resistance, you guys are doing a great job. They are feeling the pressure.

The longstanding water dogma of the San Joaquin Valley has been narrow.  The premise is that farmers need more (extracted from the environment), and the only other lens for water policy is farmworker jobs. I don’t pay as much attention to the water quality news stories, but I don’t remember many of them from the Valley before 2011-2016 drought, even during the 2006-2009 drought.  Post drought, I’m seeing a few topics emerge:

These are all relatively undeveloped issues, from a statewide policy perspective.  I am sure locals have been aware and working on these for decades, but at my remove, I haven’t heard anything on water policy out of the San Joaquin Valley besides the standard clichés.  Further, these issues are tremendously susceptible to  the wonder powers of the progressive left: community organizing, developing policy based on science, and throwing money at problems.  Imagine if Nunes and Valdao had spent any effort on these or had brought home any money towards these objectives?  The few issues they have harped on for years are deadlocked; the discussion around them played to exhaustion.

I am inspired by the new themes emerge in the Fresno Bee, the Visalia Times-Delta, the Hanford Sentinel.  I greatly admire Lois Henry’s work at Bakersfield.com.  The local community organizing on drinking water done during the drought is bearing fruit now. There are concrete bills and proposals that California can implement (imagine if the State had constructive local Congressmembers to work with).  The Resistance to Trump is opening new arenas for progressive work on Valley water.  I love to see it. Please let me know if I can help.

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Long foreseeable.

Three weeks after the tunnels received a crucial green light from federal environmental regulators, the $17.1 billion project got a cool reception from nearly 100 growers who farm in the powerful Westlands Water District. Provided with detailed financial projections at a Westlands board meeting for the first time, the farmers suggested they aren’t ready to sign onto the plan.

Investment bankers from Goldman Sachs & Co. said debt repayment could balloon farmers’ water costs to as much as $495 an acre-foot under the most expensive scenario, or about triple what Westlands growers currently pay. …

“My initial thought, right off the bat, is no way this will work,” the tomato and almond farmer said in an interview. “Those numbers might work for a city, Metropolitan and them. For a farmer, none of the crops that I grow can support these numbers.”

I am sorry these farmers are only hearing about these estimates now.  The cost range for this water has been available knowledge for half a decade now.  We’ve known for years that tunnel water wouldn’t be agricultural water.

This is another illustration of how dedication to ideology over reality is penalizing the conservative farmers of the San Joaquin Valley.  The rough price range for water out of the Delta tunnels has been known for almost a decade.  Wise district managers should have relayed this reality to their farmers.  Messrs. Neve and Bourdeau should not be learning about this now.

Instead, the leadership at Westlands continued to pander to the fantasy of additional new low cost water.  Over the years they’ve paid millions into the BDCP planning effort.  (In the end, that may end up being a subsidy for the cities that can take water from a small tunnel alternative.)   I don’t know why Westlands management didn’t explain to their farmers years ago that it was time to cut their losses.  One unflattering possibility is that they were more willing to throw their growers’ money at a project that wasn’t going to deliver ag water than they were to challenge the conservative water management philosophy of the region.  Another unflattering possibility is that the district managers and lobbyists enjoy the lifestyle that their growers support, and aren’t going to tell them unpleasant truths until they absolutely must.  Either would explain bringing in outsiders from Goldman Sachs to explain the real costs of the Delta tunnels.  In either explanation, the management and leadership at Westlands aren’t working in their growers’ best interests.  Even if their growers demand it, perpetuating the fantasy of additional low cost water will not give them the knowledge they need to plan for their farms in the long term.

 

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How Devin Nunes shortchanges his constituents.

Representative Devin Nunes is a stalwart change denier, calling global warming “nonsense“.  He jokes about the dangers that climate change poses to Californians in a blog post today.

This poses two problems.  One is that he is asking his fellow ideologues to join him in a joke that denies their own lived experiences.  Perhaps Nunes has been in DC so long that he doesn’t know how the southern San Joaquin Valley is changing.  But the people who live there can see and feel the effects of climate change.  It isn’t a snide joke to them.

Things that people in CA22 have seen and experienced in the past few years:

What Devin Nunes’ post shows today is that he isn’t paying close attention to his district.  He has grouped “radical environmentalist” and “climate change” into one category and now uses any hint of one or the other to dismiss an entire field of conversation.  But people in his district are feeling real and varied effects of climate change, no matter who they vote for.  But rather than looking at the facts of his constituents’ lives, and listening to them, Nunes writes mocking posts.  This has three effects:

First, it gaslights the people who live in the district, denying their lived experience.  They know damn well the summer nights aren’t cooling off and they aren’t getting enough chilling hours in the winter.  They can see the dead trees in their beautiful mountains.  They aren’t blind, or stupid, but Nunes’ is saying that this collection of experiences is literally nonsense.  That it isn’t happening.

Second, Nunes is denying his constituents their intellectual understanding of what is happening to them.  Some of his constituents know this.  But the implicit trade-off that Nunes is offering his constituents is that they must not understand the things they experience, the change to the Valley that is happening before their eyes, if they want to be part of the conservative Valley identity.  He justifies and personifies an ignorance that means his constituents can’t predict and prepare themselves for a harsher future.  If climate change isn’t the coherent explanation for their cows falling over in the heat, and years of drought, and higher rates of asthma, if those things are unlinked random chance, there is no way to prepare for them and alleviate some future suffering.

Third, Nunes’ post mocks the concept of climate change and calls some of the environmentalist solutions “preposterous”.  But there is a whole suite of reasonable preparations and solutions that the southern San Joaquin Valley will need desperately.  Some of those are best done by government. When the governmental representative is denying the entire concept, I’m pretty sure that he’s not allocating more money to researching tree strains that require less chilling hours.  Governments were needed to manage the thousands of cow carcasses; this is foreseeable, and a good representative could have been working on getting plans in place.  Researching Valley Fever and asthma, planting urban trees, fighting fires, cutting down dead trees in the Sierras to protect communities.  An elected representative that is watching reality closely, with a scientific understanding of the phenomenon, would be bringing money and plans home to the district.  Nunes keeps proving that he will never be that elected representative.

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Trump wrecked Nunes.

Less than a year ago, Westlands and the ag boys of California water had themselves a perfectly good Congressman.  Nunes was able and willing to carry whatever legislation they could develop to advance their water preferences.  But then Nunes found an even bigger authoritarian he could toady for, and Westlands lost their whole investment in Nunes.  Nunes was well-trained and well-placed; he could have done them a lot of good if Trump hadn’t turned his head.  Now poor Nunes is embarrassed, under investigation and won’t talk to the Fresno Bee.  If I were a big ag donor in the San Joaquin Valley, I’d be mad at Nunes for leaving his lane and floundering about.  Now they’re going to have to buy another one, train him up and install him.  What a waste of their time and money.

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Welcome, Mr. Janz.

Hello, Mr. Janz.  You don’t know me, but I’ve been writing about Devin Nunes for years.  I am so glad you are here.  If there is anything we can do to help you, please let us know.  For starters, I hope you don’t mind if I offer you some unsolicited advice.

On campaigning:

Go all in for women, for several reasons.  The utilitarian reason is that if you win, it will be because of women.  The bottomless fury of women right now is giving them cause to campaign and donate.  It is not possible to overestimate the ferocity and energy for change among women right now.  Devin Nunes has no claim on loyalty from local women.  He’s a natural bootlicker for strong men; I’ve never seen anything to indicate that he pays any attention to anyone he doesn’t consider powerful.  The only mention of women in eight years of his blog is the phrase “servicemen and women” on two occasions.  Devin Nunes isn’t the worst sexist out there, but he isn’t woke either.  When he wants to diminish a concept, he feminizes it.  Women’s issues (family health, drinking water, household finances, air quality, college affordability, land use and city planning, prison reform) are all wide open for you.  Claim them and ask for women’s support.  You’ll never win the Valley big boys against Nunes anyway.

On water policy:

This will be incredibly difficult.  There is one party line in the Valley and Nunes owns it.  (Although he’s gone erratically off-message before.)  Republicans and the rare Valley Democrat both vow to increase surface storage and end the ESA.  It will be incredibly hard to campaign on anything else and win; I would understand if you succumb to this.  But I think there are new power alignments in Valley water and that you could pull together a different water policy.

You could try a water policy based on clean drinking water for small communities in your district (completely ignored by Nunes) and by participating in the groundwater sustainability agencies’ planning efforts in your area.  I know, that’s so much time.  But people are gathering around those two nodes in water policy.  Again, you will never beat Nunes on big-ag water policy; he’s very creditably claimed that arena.  But clean drinking water for small communities and implementing the new groundwater laws are very important in your region, and still up for grabs.

If it would help, I would be happy to use whatever resources I have or know of to bring together a workgroup to help you craft a local, specific water policy. There are better local voices than mine, but if I can give you any assistance in shaping a new progressive direction for Valley water policy, I would be happy to.

 

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Outwardly pleasant.

Hello.  Would any of you lovely people like to hire me to do water policy work?  Things are fine here; my job is solid.  But my side project was very exhilarating and leaves me in a mood for steep learning curves and new thoughts. I know there’s nothing you want more in your office than an opinionated, foul-mouthed co-worker, and here I am, potentially interested!  Please email me at onthepublicrecord@gmail.com if you have an opportunity for me in the Sacramento area.  Thank you, all!

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Book recommendations

I am very much enjoying Up and Down California, by William Brewer.  It is an account of his surveying trips in 1860-1864.  The intermittent racism and sexism are a terrible reflection of his time, but the rest is tremendous.  I wish I could see that California.

I would welcome book recommendations as well.  My queue is empty.  I would love books similar to these:

  • Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, Sam Quinones
  • The Only Rule is It Has To Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, Lindberg and Miller
  • Trustee from the Toolroom, Shute

Which, when put together like that, have a unifying theme of industrious and clever problem-solving.  Perhaps I am in a mood for problem-solving.

 

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